[geo-discuss] Re: Fwd: [ordnancemaps] Soviet Military Maps of UK

Chris Lightfoot chris at ex-parrot.com
Sat Aug 20 19:49:37 UTC 2005

On Sat, Aug 20, 2005 at 08:02:36PM +0100, Richard Fairhurst wrote:
> On 20 Aug 2005, at 19:26, Rufus Pollock wrote:
> >[Moving to discuss as this seems a more appropriate]
> You beat me to it - Jo had just suggested I do the same. :)
> >Richard Fairhurst wrote:
> >>Here's one from the Ordnance Survey discussion list (not OS 
> >>politics/licensing, rather the study and collection of OS maps).
> >>The Soviet military maps represent an interesting potential source 
> >>for free geodata. OS has laid claim to partial copyright, and made 
> >>what (to me) sounded like quite a convincing case. But the message 
> >>below suggests there may be more to it than that.
> >
> >What was their case? That the Russians took the data from the OS? What 
> >is the copyright status of Russian maps in general?
> Yes, that's what they said. See:
> http://www.cartography.org.uk/Pages/Membership/DesignG/Copyrit5.html
> http://www.cartography.org.uk/Pages/Membership/DesignG/Arch_3.html
> All the pages in that series are worth reading. On another page, 
> there's the suggestion that there are no copyright issues whatsoever in 
> creating "derived works" from aerial photographs:
> http://www.cartography.org.uk/Pages/Membership/DesignG/Copyrit1.html

Interesting. The bit about placenames and about boundary
data look to me as if they ought to be subjects of the
*database right* rather than copyright, though I'm no
authority on the matter!

I note especially this exchange:

    DG. May any publisher claim copyright over UK
        administrative boundary information?

    OS. Yes, we create the boundaries. We mere [sic.] them
        on the ground. These boundaries represent our
        efforts and therefore our copyright even though we
        were paid for the work by the Boundary Commission.

      * Many of the Design Group disagreed with this
        position. It was stated that as the Boundary
        Commission paid for the work they were the
        copyright owner. A letter will be sent to BC to
        clarify the situation.

(I assume that `mere' in the OS response ought to read

Administrative boundaries are defined by legislation
(typically -- perhaps exclusively? -- statutory
instruments) which are themselves are Crown Copyright.
Typically for major changes the instrument will abolish
existing administrative areas -- say the electoral
divisions of a county -- and new ones created; this
formula is followed even in respect of areas which are
exactly or substantially coincident with those which
preceded them. Such new geographies may be defined in
three ways:

  - by reference to other extant geography (e.g., ``the
    division of ... shall consist of the electoral wards
    of ... and the parishes of ...'');

  - by reference to physical geography (e.g. ``the
    boundary of the division shall begin at (E, N) and
    follow the line of ... stream in ... direction, then
    ... field boundary, ...''); or

  - by reference to a prepared map.

In England and Wales, administrative geographies seem
typically to be defined by a mixture of the first and
third methods; in Scotland the first and second. (Not sure
about Northern Ireland -- I think it's been a while since
there was a redistricting there in any case.)

Maps are drawn as part of the review of boundaries which
takes place during the review process, and typically
(exclusively? not sure) Ordnance Survey is the contractor
responsible for this mapping. Ordnance Survey also prepare
the supporting maps where these are required in an Order.
So far as I know, those maps fall under the same copyright
as any other OS mapping (and not the same as the
legislation; they also don't appear http://www.opsi.gov.uk/
but must -- in principle -- be inspected at the offices of
ODPM or the relevant local council).

Ordnance Survey also prepare a dataset called Boundary
Line, which describes (almost) all the administrative
geographies in terms of polygons. This has the same
copyright status as other OS products. So far as I can
tell everybody who needs to use boundary data (for
instance to determine eligibility to vote at an election
or whatever) uses this dataset.

This means that *in practice* adminstrative boundary data
are copyright of Ordnance Survey. In principle...  well,
it's not really clear. Although not every administrative
boundary is defined solely by reference to a copyright
map, there is no other way in which they can be
interpreted: if some area A is defined in terms of the
boundaries of areas B and C, then you need to know where
those boundaries lie, and the only data which establish
those are themselves OS copyright.

I do not know whether there is a way to bootstrap this,
but it is an interesting question!

``This is much too subtle to be considered a parody.''
  (Fox News attorney Dori Hanswirth, on Al Franken's book entitled `Lies And
  the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right')

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